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Unveiling Vin de Constance at Marble: A Conversation with Wikus

I had the privilege of interviewing Wikus, Marble’s top-notch sommelier at Marble in Johannesburg, which unveiled some truly unique perspectives surrounding the rare and remarkable Vin de Constance. As the guardian of an exquisite wine collection, Wikus provides insights into the distinctive vintages within Marble’s cellars, including the 1986 and 1987 vintages.  My own interest in this exceptional South African wine fuels our interview, met by his own enthusiasm for these rare wines. 

Vin de Constance through Wikus’s Eyes

Naturally, one of my first questions for Wikus was what exactly made the Vin de Constance wines stand out to him, and whether he had a personal favourite. As a fellow enthusiast, it’s always great to hear why others appreciate it. 

His answer said it all: According to Wikus, the wine is a South African icon, with such a rich story to tell. It’s a wine that international clients always ask for – and tend to indulge in at the end of their evenings. As only a true Vin de Constance enthusiast would say – there is also no particular vintage that stands out for him. The consistency of the wine, year after year, is one of his favourite aspects. That, and the quality and balance of the wine, of course. Many other sweet wines are too sticky and unbalanced, while he loves the sweet dry entry, lovely mid-palate and bright acidity that is retained throughout. 

The Rare 1986 and 1987 Vintages

One of my questions had to revert to the 1986 and 1987 vintages since there is only a single bottle of each in the cellar.  I was curious to know whether he had ever sold any in the restaurant before since they are some of the rarest and most expensive, especially compared to the 1997 vintage. And while his answer was no, he did mention that they have both these vintages, along with a 1962 Chateau Yquem, all three of which make excellent talking points among clients.

He also pointed out that the reason for the significant price difference between these vintages, and the 1997, was due to the age and rarity, of course – and in his words, these are unicorn wines. You may never see them again, so they did not hesitate to pay a premium price for them at an auction. 

Elevating the Status of South African Wines

Q: “Given that much of the South African hospitality sector doesn’t traditionally emphasise wine by vintage, especially in the context of Vin de Constance, do you think there’s a lack of understanding regarding the significance of vintages among those in the industry? How might recognising this significance enhance the status of South African wines?”

A: “Having vintages in your wine list makes a tremendous difference. I have noticed that clients are seeking older vintages and more specific vintages more frequently.”

This sparked another thought. Was there a growing interest in collecting and investing in wine? Was there a growing demand for these older vintages – and if so, it would have been interesting to know if it influenced his wine program.

And he confirmed it. The older vintages were being ‘scooped up on auctions and the guests and collectors were doing their homework on older South African vintages. This is great to hear. While we’re seeing a huge shift in the wine industry with the younger generation opting for younger wines, it’s a relief to hear that older wines are still appreciated and sought after. 

ALSO READ: Revealing the Everlasting Legacy of Vin de Constance

Vin de Constance as the Perfect Pairing

While I could discuss the rarity of the older vintages, I wanted to know more about his experience with the wine, especially when it came to food. I was curious to know if there were any specific food pairings that he found complemented these specific vintages well, and whether he had a favourite pairing. 

“For me personally, I enjoy a glass of Vin de Constance as a digestive after a meal,” Wikus says. “no need for any dessert or dish to complement the wines. We were fortunate enough to have some 1997 under Coravin, tasting the evolution of the wine and how it’s layered with secondary characteristics on top of the primary fruit flavours takes you on a journey.”

Memorable Moments with the VDC

To end off our interview, my last question to Wikus was about any memorable experiences that stood out while serving or enjoying a VDC – since it is such a huge talking point.

“It was probably in my early days of getting to know wines. I was invited to a vertical tasting of Vin de Constance at Ten Bompas. Unfortunately, I could not recall the vintages we tasted, but it took me on a journey on the evolution of Vin de Constance.”

My chat with Wikus and our exploration of Vin de Constance felt like a genuine celebration of history, rarity, and the timeless charm of this South African gem. This renowned sommelier’s enthusiasm resonated in every word, vividly portraying the enchanting journey that is experiencing Vin de Constance at Marble.

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